The goal of this executive summary is to emphasise the impact climate change has on coral species extinctions on our planet.
With climate change altering organism niches, they are forced to shift their range to find more suitable conditions, some organisms cannot adapt their range fast enough, leading to their extinction. Coral reef’s and the ecosystems they support are ecologically, economically and culturally significant.Climate change is identified as a long term change in the planet’s weather patterns and/or average temperatures on a large-scale. The global climate has changed numerous times in the earths history, responsible for both ice ages and tropical weather. The current change in climate poses a threat to biodiversity and quality of life. It is extremely important that we take note of our contributions to climate change and in turn minimise these actions.Importance of Coral Reefs and their EcosystemsThey are recognised as ‘hot-spots’ of biodiversity.Coral reefs protect coastlines from the damaging effects of costal erosion.
In terms of biodiversity, they provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms.Hence why the fishing industry rely on coral reefs, where many fish spawn.The Great Barrier Reef is economically important for Australia generating more than1.5 billion dollars every year in tourism (Abdo et al., 2012).The great barrier reef is a wonder of the world and could be lost to human induced climate change.If future generations are to avail of these natural wonders policies must be put in place to minimise human induced climate change and damage to corals.
Current threats to Coral Reefs caused by Human induced climate changeCorals are sessile, which means that they permanently attach themselves to the ocean floor. they live in symbolises with microscopic algae called zooxanthella which produce nutrients for the coral, in turn for living on the coral where they have access to light.Zooxanthella are responsible for giving the coral colour due to their photosynthetic pigments.
They’re also important in supporting marine flora and fauna.The worlds oceans are warming in response to global temperature warming, the water is warmed by the air above in a process known as convection.Coral bleaching is a process in which the Zooxanthella are expelled from the coral, exposing its calcium carbonate skeleton, in response to increased water temperatures.Corals are at high risk due to the fact that they reside in shallow waters, the shallower the water the faster and more easily it heats up.SST stands for sea surface temperature and it is responsible for weather conditions including rare phenomenons like El Niño.El Niño event bring unusually warm water to the equatorial Pacific, bleaching and often killing corals.In a 2011 study of coral bleaching, mortality rates were high, with a mean of 50% in the Houtman Abrolhos Islands reefs.
Species we stand to lose is Corals disappear Butterfly fish – these fish are obligate corallivores, feeding only on coral polyps.Spiny lobsters – rely on coral reefs for protection from predation.Whales and Dolphins – the knock on affect of fish extinction due to the loss of corals will have a significant effect on food resources. (One Green Planet, 2018)Hawksbill Sea Turtles – these turtle have become critically endangered species and are highly dependent on coral reefs for their food sources in the form of sea sponges.Human influences on extinction ratesClimate change also is mainly influenced by the composition of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the ozone layer. The ozone layer is part of the upper atmosphere in which ultraviolet radiation is absorbed, preventing the majority from reaching the earths surface.
CO2 is the most harmful greenhouse gas in terms of global warming, making up 406.75ppm, recorded in December 2017.CO2 has increased from 315ppm to the current 406.75ppm in form 1958.The major contributors to atmospheric CO2 are; burning of fossil fuels, reliance on transport, deforestation for infrastructure and farming.Methane is another greenhouse gas released by intensive farming.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a group of gases which deplete the ozone layer; contributed to by aerosols, fridges and in making foam plastics.The depletion of the ozone layer lets more radiation in, reaching the earths surface and increasing global temperature.Ocean acidification represents an additional major threat for these calcifying species given its potential effects on growth rates, reproduction and resistance to environmental changesConclusion In conclusion, the literature I have summarised, mainly ‘Climate Change Biology’ written by Hannah Lee, shows a real threat of extinction to corals and coral reefs. Not only is this a threat to corals and the organisms they support but also a threat to our fisheries, culture and tourism.
The single cause of the above problems is the warming of our climate. Climate change is also known as global warming, referring to the increase in average global temperature at a rate of 0.15-0.20°C per decade. The definitive cause of this is the excessive emission of greenhouse gases from human activity.
The increase in concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is also contributing to ocean acidification further exacerbating coral bleaching. If we tackle the human influence, we can successfully tackle this rapid climate change. I urge you to make the right decision by considering the proposed policies in an effort to save coral reefs but more importantly save our planet from the destruction inflicted by human induced climate change.